every time i drive to adam’s house from mine, i pass this shuttered church as i turn into his neighborhood. it’s a fairly good-sized building, on a fairly prime piece of land, with thousands of people who see it every single day.
every time i see this sign, i experience a jumble of thoughts and emotions.
sometimes the feeling is sadness:
this church was in an amazing neighborhood. no, it’s not an amazing neighborhood if you’re hoping for homogeneous, white and affluent. but it’s a gorgeous neighborhood (rolando, the church bore the name of the neighborhood), with fantastic diversity in both economic and racial ways, plus a big dose of college students from nearby san diego state university. it’s mostly a family neighborhood, with mid-century small homes. right behind the church is a very large park that is always (i mean always — without exception) teeming with people, at all hours of the day and night.
but even with all the life in this neighborhood, this church closed. i don’t know the story. but i can certainly imagine one that include a dwindling and (literally) dying congregation of white octogenarians unwilling or incapable of being good news to their neighborhood. fear of change. refusal to change.
what a crappy way to die.
if this is the story, the church building is now just a big, ugly tombstone shouting out to the thriving neighborhood, “we didn’t care about you.”
sometimes i chuckle:
it’s dark humor, to be sure. but there’s some great irony in a closed church with “open doors” on its sign.
sometimes it makes me angry:
this response isn’t all that different than the sadness response. just a different place on the scale, i suppose.
sometimes i find it horribly convicting:
really, sometimes i can barely bring myself to drive by the stupid sign.
all the sadness and snarky-dark humor and anger: this is easy finger-pointing. it’s very natural for me to assume unwillingness or hard-heartedness or selfishness on the part of others. it’s simple to imagine the possible scenario above for two reasons: it’s so common, and i have a cynical finger-pointing heart.
the more dangerous question: in what ways am i living like that imaginary congregation? how am i undermining the “i don’t care about you” message that would result in an empty, closed building, in terms of my own faith and relationships and neighborhood and world?